Month: March 2016

4 Unexpected and Proven Health Benefits of Charity Work

Recent research has suggested that giving to others—whether in the form of time, resources, or a combination of the two—has numerous positive effects. In fact, one study showed that those who give to a charitable cause were 43 percent more likely to describe themselves as “very happy,” compared to those who didn’t give. Other studies have shown that charitable behavior leads to increased life satisfaction. For example, in a 2004 study, researchers discovered that simply committing random good deeds significantly increased peoples’ moods for several weeks.

The rewards for charitable behavior don’t end with good feelings, however. Those who give to others can expect to reap the following physical and mental health benefits:

1. Better Immune System Function

While a specific, molecular-level explanation for this phenomenon is yet to be uncovered, the connection between the psychological and physiological states—the basis for psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)—has been explored by medical professionals for more than 25 years. In 1987, for example, psychologists McClelland and Kirshnit organized a study to observe associative thought and the influence of cognition, if any, on the body.

They presented a series of themes, as portrayed in movies, to participants and the resulting test data for “generosity” suggested a positive correlation to strengthened immune systems. More specifically, the researchers found that the process of thinking about giving to and serving others generates a rise in salivary immunoglobulin A (S-Ig A) protein, which allows the immune system to process bacteria and viruses.

2. Less Depression and Anxiety

friendshipThe production of S-Ig A isn’t the only physiological reaction to performing good deeds: charity also creates additional amounts of serotonin in the brain. A neurochemical, serotonin facilitates mood regulation and helps to prevent anxiety. Thus, the nervous system also benefits from putting the needs of others first.

Volunteering, as some researchers have discovered, affects both anxiety and depression because it helps lower stress-related hormones, such as cortisol, in older individuals. In 2003, researchers Musick and Wilson gathered data suggesting that when people offer their time and talents to others, they experience decreased levels of depression. The University of Michigan conducted a study in 1986 that yielded similar results, revealing that people who volunteer report an increase in the level of control they feel over their life. Underlying these studies is the common denominator that performing service fosters an empowering sense of accomplishment.

3. Lowered Blood Pressure

Adding to the previous findings, a 2006 study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology confirmed that giving time and energy to others further manifests health benefits by stabilizing the benefactor’s blood pressure. For the study, psychology professors at John Hopkins University and the University of Tennessee measured blood-pressure levels of participants in two groups: one with people who offer social support and one with people who do not. The results of the study revealed that the former had statistically lower blood pressure. The investigators additionally found less depression among these individuals, as well as a heightened sense of self-esteem.

Faculty members of the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia corroborated studies on blood pressure by finding that when people give money to help someone else, their blood pressure goes down. Further, the more money people donate, the greater the impact on blood pressure. The current theory as to why this happens is that charity promotes relaxation and calms stress, thus resulting in healthy blood-pressure levels.

4. Reduced Mortality Rates

childrenAnother important health discovery related to charity is that the combined lowering of stress, anxiety, blood pressure, etc. leads to greater longevity. In a five-year study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), a team of researchers found that because assisting others addresses the negative effects of stress, it can also combat the rate of mortality.

The AJPH results are supported by statistics from the United States Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on the numbers sampled, the states that lead in volunteer activities likewise lead in terms of overall life expectancy. In addition, areas of the country noted for a high rate of charitable endeavors record fewer cases of heart disease.

Charity-related longevity stems from the sense of purpose that individuals gain from striving to make life easier for others. Social psychologists have pointed out that the networks created by charity work also establish deep connections for those involved. Thus, charitable giving helps to solidify a purposeful role in society for the contributor and combats isolation and feelings of loneliness.

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Why Furniture Sellers Should Embrace E-Commerce

The advent of the Internet has altered consumer behavior in indisputably significant ways, especially in the case of furniture shopping. Consumers are increasingly relying on web-based information and online stores when making their home décor purchases, both big and small.

shop onlineAbout one-third of furniture shoppers turn to the web first to find and price their options before visiting a brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase. In total, online furniture sales make up about 14% of all furniture sales in the US, and this percentage is growing.

To tap into this market, many furniture sellers have created online sales platforms. Their commitment to creating a personalized, digital buying experience for customers, new and returning, fuels the ever-growing e-commerce landscape.

Still, only a relatively small percentage of companies (about 30 percent) in the furniture industry offer online sales and have allocated the necessary personnel and resources to manage digital marketing. As it stands, the online furniture market is largely untapped, though the companies who have made the transition will see the payoff, particularly if they embrace mobile commerce.

A compilation of data in the 2016 edition of the Mobile 500 report revealed that mobile commerce, or the sector comprising purchases made from smartphones, now represents roughly 30 percent of e-commerce in the United States. U.S. mobile commerce sales in 2015 totaled $104.05 billion, which handily eclipsed the $75.03 billion record set the previous year. Whereas the U.S. saw this 38% growth, the mobile commerce sales of the top 14 Asian m-commerce retailers grew by 249.3%, over 6 times faster than in the US. In Europe, the top 93 m-commerce retailers grew their sales by 70.7% in 2015. It’s clear that both at home and abroad, mobile commerce is growing exponentially.

googleExploring this shift in shopping, researchers at Google aggregated statistics on consumer trends for 2015, narrowing their focus to examine the furniture industry. They discovered that computer and tablet Internet searches for home furniture are increasing at a steady rate (2 percent, year-over-year). However, the trajectory of similar searches on mobile devices is outpacing the former at a whopping 47 percent year-over-year growth. Additionally, the Google research showed that mobile outperformed desktop computers and tablets in searches for home furniture items over the 2015 President’s Day Weekend, an important weekend for sales in the retail industry.

In order to adapt to the current trends in consumer behavior, furniture industry professionals will have to ensure that their website draws traffic, generates a positive first impression, and leads to sales. For drawing traffic, a website must first respond with proper formatting on all devices, especially smartphones. Without a mobile-friendly site, furniture companies will have difficulty achieving the same consistent, high-volume traffic as their competitors.

In 2015, Google modified its search algorithm to favor sites with mobile-friendly pages and forecasted major changes in search results because of this. The uproar created by the announcement died down after initial analysis revealed few changes. However, a year later, it’s clear that companies with mobile-friendly sites have received a boost from the new algorithm. Compared to mobile-friendly sites, non-mobile-friendly sites experienced a 12% drop in traffic in the two months following the implementation of the changes.

In addition to optimization for mobile users, the second factor to consider when creating a website is usability. Consumers respond well to layouts that have fewer pages and easy-to-find navigation tools. The expandable “hamburger menu”—the three horizontal lines placed in the top corner of many mobile sites, hiding the navigation buttons—can help clear space for site visitors and provide a more streamlined look. However, despite the convenience of tucking away links, the hamburger menu can prevent users from discovering the most important navigation tools on the page. When navigation links are hidden, users may be less likely to explore a site. When creating the layout of a site, therefore, designers should take care to make navigation as easy as possible.

A clean, clutter-free look is also important. Designers should limit the number of typefaces they use to two, at most, as a website with several different fonts can be visually confusing to the user. A card-based design is another good strategy, especially in terms of optimizing for m-commerce. This type of design is characterized by the use of rectangles to organize text, video, and images on a site, offering a more organized feel and allowing for easy scrolling and selecting on mobile platforms. The card design diversifies the presentation of text and photographic information and allows potential buyers to look at items one-at-a-time or side-by-side.

Ultimately, as more consumers take to the web and their mobile phones to research furniture they want to buy and ultimately make purchases, they will not only seek out quality, well-priced items. They also want the best e-commerce and m-commerce experiences. Furniture sellers can position their companies for success by investing in a website design that’s clutter-free, easy to use, and optimized for mobile.

How to Form a Private Nonprofit Foundation

Think of the last time you were asked to donate money to a worthy cause. Maybe it was a single dollar in the checkout line at the grocery store, or maybe it was a few hundred dollars through a charity drive at your church or place of worship. Given the fact that in 2015 the total number of charities in the United States exceeded 1.5 million, chances are it wasn’t long ago that someone solicited your generosity.

From volunteers ringing bells outside of department stores to large-scale charity galas and 5k races, there is certainly no shortage of opportunities to support people in need, the environment, the arts, or other worthy causes. All the options for giving can be overwhelming, especially for people of means who have the ability and desire to make a sizeable impact with their charitable donations. Establishing a private foundation is a viable option for these individuals.

What Is a Foundation?

missionPrivate foundations can receive the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt designation from the IRS, and they are generally formed with an altruistic goal: their founders want to help others or effect some kind of change. Foundations classify as nonprofits because their objectives don’t involve generating a profit for owners or shareholders. Foundations and charities differ in that charities usually provide direct services, not grants or financial support, and they may solicit funds from the public, government, and other organizations. In contrast, private foundations usually derive their income from one source—an individual, family, or corporation, for example. Although many people think that a foundation can only be established with access to millions of dollars in assets, this is incorrect. According to the Council on Foundations, 60% of private family-based foundations have less than $1 million in assets. Most have at least a few hundred thousand dollars.

Another main difference between private foundations and charities is that private foundations are generally dedicated to one purpose: to write grants that support the work of charitable, religious, educational, or other nonprofit organizations. For example, Eugene and Donna Chrinian, the founders of The Chrinian Foundation, were inspired by their belief in the importance of family values to select a number of charities to support with grants. Through their foundation, they have provided aid to a handful of organizations that help veterans, offer emergency aid, and assist with employment searches, among other causes.

Grants from foundations are often the lifeblood of many charitable organizations, whereas other channels of funding, such as soliciting smaller donations from the public, can sometimes fail to generate the consistent level of income that the charity needs to operate.

Creating a Foundation

Regrettably, many nonprofits don’t last longer than five years. This doesn’t mean that these nonprofits had unworthy causes or bad intentions, but it does show the importance of identifying the best platform for pursuing and achieving your philanthropic goals.

When creating a private foundation, there are many legal and administrative issues to address. You, your family, and your financial and legal advisers should start by considering the following initial questions:

  1. What is the foundation’s purpose? Why is it being formed, and what are its guiding values?
  2. Who will serve as the foundation’s board members, officers, and directors?
  3. Where and how will the foundation obtain its financial resources?
  4. How much do you want to be involved in the foundation’s daily operations? Are you comfortable delegating to others?
  5. How long do you intend the foundation to operate?
  6. What are the tax consequences?
  7. What activities will be legally prohibited or restricted?
  8. Are there other means of giving—such as simply donating to a cause—that would work better for my resources and philanthropic goals?

One of the most important considerations is what legal form your foundation will take. Generally, you can choose between a charitable trust and a nonprofit corporation. Charitable trusts can be easier to establish, but nonprofit corporations afford directors greater personal legal protection. Nonprofit corporations have more stringent operating requirements regarding meetings, officers, and record keeping, but a charitable trust can be difficult to amend once created. Note that your state, not the federal government, regulates both entities, and each state has different applicable laws, fees, and filing requirements.

No matter what legal form your foundation will take, you will need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS—even if you don’t anticipate actually hiring anyone. The EIN is required because it serves as a tax ID number. The next step is to file Form 1023 with the IRS. This “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code” also requires the submission of supporting documentation, and you must pay a fee. After your tax-exempt status is approved, you must file more paperwork to obtain the same status from your state.

Less commonly, some philanthropists have formed what are called private operating foundations. These organizations feature elements of both a foundation and a charity, and are therefore subject to stricter regulation.

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Improve Your Home Décor with These 4 Furniture Collections

As a recognized concept and a profession, interior design dates back to the 1800s. However, scholars have procured a wealth of fascinating evidence suggesting that home décor existed during the earliest years of human civilization. Several examples of art along the walls of caves and signs of animal skins and other materials stored within these dwellings support the theory that humans have an instinct drive to create a comfortable, pleasing home.

egyptIn Ancient Egypt, members of the royalty and ruling classes were known to adorn their living spaces with opulent murals and hieroglyphics detailing their lineage and religious practices. In Greece, wealthy families filled their homes with wooden furniture, including stools, couches, chests, and tables and chairs. Decoration was sparse, but might include rich tapestries and weavings, as well as decorative pottery and statues.

People often associate the birth of modern home décor with the trends that became popular in Victorian England, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. As the middle class grew in size, these families could afford to consider the comfort and aesthetic appearance of their homes, and decorating trends and guidelines for “proper” interior design proliferated. Ornamentation was popular; much of the furniture of this era was embellished with decorative carvings and upholstery, and wallpaper featuring elaborate floral patterns covered the walls of many homes. Vestiges of these trends still appear in homes today.

Since the Victorian era, interior design has lost some of its proclivity for ornamentation and embellishment, as furniture and decorating styles became much less ornate over the course of the 20th century. Also gone is the fixation on rigid “do’s” and “don’ts”—today, interior design is an expression of individual style, and eclecticism is the order of the day. Companies like Ashley Furniture Industries, the leader in U.S. furniture sales, help people find great furniture and décor that match their personalities and lifestyles.

Ashley HomeStores

ashley logoCarlyle Weinberger founded Ashley Furniture Corporation in 1945, and in the years since, the company has grown into the top seller and largest manufacturer of furniture in the world. Now known collectively as Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., the enterprise features around 460 independently owned and operated Ashley HomeStores in the U.S. Eugene Chrinian owns and oversees more than 10 Ashley HomeStores, as well as a large distribution center, in the New York City metropolitan area.

Ashley HomeStores offer quality furniture and décor in a wide range of styles, including beds, sofas, recliners, dining room tables and chairs, and media centers, as well as lighting, rugs, accent pieces, pillows, and bedding. To help customers find the pieces that match their personal style, the items are grouped into four design collections: Traditional Classics, Contemporary, Vintage Casual, and the latest addition, Urbanology.

Traditional Classics

For customers interested in a look that will last, pieces from the Traditional Classics collection help create a feeling of timelessness. Some key features and characteristics of this style include symmetrical lines, classic profiles, and a sophisticated palate of wood finishes, which lend an air of stateliness. You’ll also find chairs and tables with beautifully carved legs for an elegant look.

Designers often pair leather upholstery with darker wood grains to enhance the classic feel. Aside from leather, more subtle, tasteful fabric patterns also appear on furniture designed in the traditional style.


Traditional meets functional in this style category. Designed to look fresh and up-to-the-minute, Ashley HomeStore’s Contemporary collection catches the eye with more linear angles than those found in traditional styles. An additional focus of the contemporary design philosophy is the interplay between furniture and technology, working together harmoniously.

Given that this category represents the most recent trends in design, the range of characteristics spans from the conservative to the more daring ends of the spectrum. Lighter wood finishes and the addition of pillow tops, mirrored surfaces, glass, and metal all provide contemporary touches as well.

Vintage Casual

Vintage Casual mixes the old and new, and the result is comfort with a certain level of sophistication, nostalgia, and coziness. The eclectic mixing and matching applies to colors, shapes, textures, and finishes; for example, ironwork or other metals might be paired with sanded wood.

Closely related is the “shabby chic” approach, which is characterized by pieces with a weathered, old-fashioned feel, floral textiles, and white-washed wooden furniture. Quirky folk art accents provide interest and complete the look.


Similar to the Vintage Casual collection, Ashley HomeStore’s new Urbanology collection features an eclectic mix of pieces, but with a more worldly finish. Rustic, contemporary, industrial, and comfortable all come together to form a sleek, cohesive design. The inspiration here is loft-style living, but the Urbanology collection works in any home—whether in the city, suburbs, or out in the country.

A Hope to Dream – Ashley Furniture Helps Children in Need

When looking for a cause to donate to, most people don’t consider sleep issues to be a priority. Yet, a cursory search of the Internet will yield limitless polls, surveys, and research on the ways in which children benefit from a good night’s sleep. Searchers will also find a host of variables that interfere with optimal rest, and among the most prominent of these is the lack of a proper bed.

Ashley Homestore LogoLuckily, several groups have formed to address childhood sleep concerns. Ashley Furniture HomeStore, for example, developed its A Hope to Dream initiative, a program of the company’s charitable arm, the Furnishing Dreams organization. Through the initiative, Ashley Furniture HomeStore donates new mattresses set, a pillow, and a comforter to children aged 3-16, who are identified as needing a bed by people in the community. A Hope to Dream centers on children because of the potential they have for improving their respective communities, and a child’s contribution starts with performing well in school and in any extracurricular activities—all of which require adequate rest.

Ashley Furniture HomeStore funds the project through percentages of every mattress it sells in more than 170 stores in over 40 states, as well as in Mexico and Canada. It also holds special fundraising events at select showrooms. Since it launched the A Hope to Dream initiative in 2012, the company has facilitated the donation of nearly 4,000 twin-size mattress sets in the U.S. and certain international cities.

In the case of providing beds to children in need, the motivation to engage in the effort may seem self-evident, but several research-based insights further point to the importance and urgency of funding quality mattress donations. The importance of quality sleep cannot be overstated.

children bedChildren need a bed that will offer nighttime support during their formative years. The ongoing and significant physical changes that children experience as they grow create a heavy toll on their backs in particular. Unfortunately, many parents and families are without the resources to spend a little extra, if anything at all, up front on a mattress to ensure that their child has a secure place to rest and dream.

In addition to back support, quality mattresses help facilitate a full night of sleep, which is around 10 hours for children between the ages of 3 and 16. When an old and poorly cared for mattress interferes with this amount of rest, a number of ill effects can result. Studies have suggested that children who don’t get enough sleep have a greater struggle with obesity and diabetes. Sleep-deprived kids also battle with staying on top of their school work, and some even receive a misdiagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) simply because they tend to act more frantic and out of control when they are not rested.

According to some research, sleep loss can lead to depression and unhealthy habits, such as smoking. It can also negatively impact the immune system, increasing a child’s risk of falling ill. For example, if sleep-deprived kids receive a vaccination, they are unable to sufficiently develop an immune response. Proper sleep allows the brain to remove unnecessary information while simultaneously storing crucial facts for long-term retention. With a low-quality bed, this process is interrupted.

One reason that children often end up on old and worn-out mattresses is that it’s hard to measure the lifespan of a mattress. Aside from a spring protruding from the fabric or some other blatant malfunction, most people don’t know how to tell if a mattress needs replacing. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that many children in need of quality bedroom furniture sleep on hand-me-down beds that have been in use for an unknown length of time. In most cases, these mattresses were deemed uncomfortable by their previous owner.

To learn more about the A Hope to Dream initiative or to nominate a child in need of a good bed, visit

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living room

Furniture Industry Projected to Grow in 2016

In 2015, the average American spent $92 each day, and 5.3 million homes sold. Wage growth — and the accompanying discretionary spending — and the steady boom in the housing market are anticipated to continue along their current trajectory in 2016. The extra earnings and home purchases are also expected to translate into continued success in the furniture industry, which is slated to surpass all other business sectors within the United States economy yet again this year at an estimated $10.6 billion.

home for sale

An increase in the number of home owners and renters has led to an increase in the demand for furniture. As a result, furniture sellers such as Ashley HomeStore, the U.S. leader in overall sales and retail locations — at 462 —are reaping the benefits. Ashley HomeStore, along with the many smaller component companies in the furniture industry, has contributed to a market that has not only outpaced, but has performed nearly twice as well as the entire economy in overall performance. The rate of growth has averaged between 6 and 7 percent year-over-year since the housing crashed in 2007. Here are a few factors contributing to the success of the furniture industry:

Online furniture shopping: present and future

The increase in demand brought on by the booming housing market has been supplemented by ecommerce or online sales, which Ashley HomeStore and other furniture companies have implemented in their business models to create a sustainable revenue pipeline. Many of those looking for furniture fall into the Millennials demographic, which recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest population living and working in the United States. They also represent the biggest generation in the history of the nation.

The fundamental consumer trend among this group of potential buyers focuses on online shopping as opposed to traditional visits to brick-and-mortar retail centers. Retailers who embrace the online platform for buying and selling can expand the shopping experience with their company by offering the convenience of browsing products from their homes. In addition, this allows consumers to instantly compare and contrast their options in order to inform their ultimate decision.

While ecommerce offers convenience and the ability to quickly connect with customers, it still remains an underutilized tool by a majority of sellers. In fact, only 5 percent of revenue within the furniture industry comes from online sales. If more companies began to utilize ecommerce in their business models, then a platform that already significantly outperforms the rest of the marketplace could potentially and very easily achieve record-setting heights in subsequent years.

Whether through brick-and-mortar stores or online, the furniture market has seen two specific product areas emerge as big sellers: bedroom pieces and dining room sets.

Bedroom furniture: mattresses making a comeback

For years, the selling point for mattresses was a large, multi-year product warranty. Recent studies have shown that mattresses, regardless of their construction, will provide benefits to users for between five and seven years. Some children’s beds may last upwards of 10 years, but even that is half of the timeframe originally marketed by warranties.

bed mattressSimilar to running shoes, which athletes replace after a designated number of miles, mattresses now feature advertising on how to make the most of the product and when to move on to the next set. Research suggests that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of restful sleep each night, and once a mattress has too many “miles” on it, it no longer provides the same results. Data from one study showed that new bedding can improve the quality and comfort of one’s sleep by more than 60 percent, while simultaneously reducing back pain and stiffness.

Other factors accounting for the rise in mattress sales include a more competitive market, advancements in technology, and the development of customized bedding. Consumers have more options than ever before when looking for bedroom furniture, and they can search online and in-store for the best match for their demographic and lifestyle.

Dining room furniture: size and function are key

Due to the increase in home buying, more consumers need to furnish their dining rooms and bedrooms. The increase in purchases made by Millennials has further narrowed the trend of buying smaller dining room sets for downsized living spaces. The furniture pieces are also conducive to moving — a selling point for consumers who may not be looking to settle down in one home for an extended period.

As buyers no longer focus primarily on warranties when deciding whether to purchase a new mattress, they closely consider the design and functionality of dining room furniture, as well. One popular design is the transitional, or updated classic, which features elements of both the traditional and contemporary. The pieces allow owners to mix, match, and adapt to any living space.

A versatile choice for many buyers, transitional-style dining furniture can mix with other designs for a look that is unique to the owner. In fact, interior designers suggest focusing on variety in dining room tables in order to create a more relaxed environment for people and their dinner guests.


Ashley Homestore LogoElizabeth, NJ – Factory Direct Enterprises (FDE) a locally owned licensee of Ashley HomeStore in Metro New York and New Jersey will donate fifteen mattresses and bedding sets to the New York City Relief Bus. On Thursday, February 25th, a team from Ashley HomeStore will deliver the donation to the New York City Relief Bus camp at 9:00AM at 295 Walnut Street, Elizabeth, New Jersey. “It gives us great pleasure to partner with the Relief Bus by providing them mattresses to afford many a good night of sleep. Our team’s contribution will help them reach their optimal goal of serving underprivileged people and sharing the good news of faith and hope. This is directly in line with our mission, as we are committed to delighting our team members, guests and communities we serve in every personal interaction and by doing so we honor God,” shared Janine Monize, FDE team member.

The Relief Bus, a mobile outreach program, compassionately provides food, clothing, substance abuse rehabilitation, shelter and jobs to people seeking help. This organization is comprised of over 48,000 volunteers to serve the community. Jaun Galloway, President of The Relief Bus, is enthusiastic about the donation and the effect it will bring to those in need.

This effort is part of The Ashley Cares program which epitomizes the mission and core values of Ashley HomeStores of Metro New York and New Jersey. Ashley Cares was developed to assist those in need in the community and internal team members. Ashley HomeStore assists others by partnering with programs dedicated to providing basic needs to the community. Eugene Chrinian, owner of Factory Direct Enterprises stated, “We are very passionate about our community and addressing the needs of those less fortunate. We’re committed to giving back by supporting local organizations and joining in any possible effort.”

About Factory Direct Enterprises

Factory Direct Enterprises LLC, based in Edison, New Jersey, is a longtime licensee of Ashley HomeStore often recognized for its operational and sales excellence. The company currently operates stores in Poughkeepsie, Middletown, New Rochelle, Lake Grove, Nanuet, Brooklyn, Carle Place, Farmingdale, and Patchogue, New York and in Fairfield, Paramus, and Secaucus, New Jersey. Factory Direct also operates a distribution center and warehouse in Edison, New Jersey.

For more information about this topic, please contact Nadine Goedde at 502.339.0991 or

Click Here to download a copy of this press release.

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